Studies conducted by the University of Florida has found that Light-Nutrient Stress could make your plants sweeter, bigger, and tastier.

In hydroponic operations, we always want to provide the perfect conditions for plants so they can grow healthier and stronger.  Now, when conditions are “stressless” for plants, anti-oxidant compounds will be produced at lower levels or not at all compared to plants growing in conditions where stressful environmental situations are inevitable.

One classic example of this phenomenon is when tomatoes are put under osmotic or salt stress; the beneficial phytochemical called lycopene was shown to increase significantly. In fact, closed-loop water recirculation systems like hydroponics and aquaponics may in fact offer an advantage over soil-based growing since the water chemistry of both these systems can be manipulated to boost natural plant bioactives for health benefits.

Growing these types of super foods is becoming the focus of hydroponic researchers since they not only offer a food product with high nutritional value, but also have the potential of demanding a higher market price for the grower.

I. Red and Far-Red light spectrum hold the key 

That’s right! according to a study conducted by the University of Florida, published in 2013 by the journal Postharvest Biology and Technology, we can finally conclude that the appropriate wavelength combined with the right source of nutrients can stimulate flower production, taste, and aroma in amazing proportions.

The team began with petunia cuttings, exposing them to narrow bandwidth LED light in varying wavelengths. They found that a key floral volatile called 2-phenylethanol increased when the plant was exposed to red and far-red light spectrum.

They conducted similar tests on tomato, strawberry and blueberry, finding that flavor volatiles in each of those fruits could be manipulated with light.

Green Gear's Grow Lamps are designed to provide the perfect wavelength spectrum either for vegetative or flowering stages:


Fortunately, flavor in fruits and vegetables are something that can be manipulated to various degrees by the grower, and in hydroponics we have far greater control over growth factors than we do with outdoor crops.

II. Light-Nutrient stress can be very helpful when it comes to your plants’ flavor. For example, Cannabis and Herbs such as basil, oregano, sage and rosemary can all have their flavor and aromatic levels increased by applying some plant stress; high light, dry conditions, warm temperatures, high rates of air flow, high EC or moisture stress will all concentrate the essential oils in the foliage just as they would if the plants were being grown outside in their natural habitat. When plants have a certain level of stress, the right use of nutrients can make a huge difference in their overall performance.

When using Light-Nutrient stress, it is recommended high quality nutrients. The use of these fertilizers has to be compatible with your growing system:


Nutrients for Vegetative Stage

Conventional Gardening (New):

Nutrients for Organic Gardening

Indoor growers have a high degree of control over the root zone, which means that elements such as potassium which is vital for the flavor quality of many crops, most notably tomatoes and Cannabis can be boosted at just the right stage to ensure the flowers and fruits are of the highest possible quality.

Nutrients for Flowering Stage

III. The nutrient solution EC can also be adjusted upward once plants are established into a hydroponic system to apply sufficient plant stress to concentrate flavor compounds and aromatics in a wide range of hydroponic plants.

You can used pH Up and Down to achieve the right EC needed to induce some stress in your system:

When it comes to flavor improvement, indoor hydroponic gardeners have all the tools required to create unique and unforgettable taste sensations. While many new growers make the mistake of trying to provide a luxurious, highly protected and stress-free environment for their plants in order to maximize growth rates, this can actually be detrimental to the flavor level of many of our favorite food crops.

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  • Ania Diaz
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